ZAVALLA, TX (KTRE) - Zavalla students are throwing away more food than they're eating and leaving the cafeteria hungry. School officials said Mon Monday that this is happening because the federal government is micro managing what they can and can't put on the kids plates.
Plates full of food are finding their way to the trash can instead of into kids' stomachs, and Zavalla ISD officials who are in charge of making sure their students eat according to the newest guidelines said it's not working.
"It breaks your heart to know that there are kids out there that are hungry, and we don't care about that anymore," said Zavalla ISD Food Service Director Ethelene Giles. "What we care about is the fact that we've got to meet mandates."
Giles said this the fifth year she's had to make changes to the menu.
"This year sodium was a big undertaking, and it just basically cut the flavor out of the vegetables," Giles said.
However, the junior high kids' biggest complaint is that they can't have iced tea.
"They can't have the caffeine, but they can't have decaf tea because they say there's sugar added to it," Giles said.
"We want tea," chanted a group of junior high students.
Giles makes sure everyone has the requirement on their plate, but what they do with it is up to them.
"I can make them take it, but I can't make them eat it," Giles said.
Giles asked a preschool student if she wanted carrots.
"No!" the girl replied.
"Do you like peaches?"
"No," the student said.
When she was asked whether she likes bananas, the girl said," No" and shook her head.
Then Giles asked the girl if she wanted carrots or tomatoes, the student replied, "No, I just want ketchup."
Every student has to sit down with their school lunch plate. And every lunch plate has to have a protein, a grain, a vegetable, and a fruit on it. Much of what is being put on the plate is being left on the plate and tossed in the trash.
Zavalla officials say a lot of their food budget is literally being thrown away because raw vegetables are expensive, and the kids won't eat them because Giles said they can't be seasoned now.
"That's where the waste really comes in. They are not going to eat those English peas and let their friends see them do it," Giles said.
She said the school lunch regulations need to be revised and a committee including students need to be consulted.
"That is forcing them to do something, and they're throwing it away they need to have a say so in their choices," Giles said.
But for now, Giles said she'll keep putting the food on their plates and hoping that they choose to eat it. Zavalla's food service director even went as far to challenge law makers to eat the food themselves and see exactly what these kids are going through.
State representative Trent Ashby agrees that something needs to be done.
"I think everyone recognizes the importance of good nutrition and a balanced diet for our school children. There's no question that the approach being taken by our federal government is misguided and, unfortunately, heavy-handed," Ashby said.
Ashby said he hopes Washington is listening and will go back to the drawing board and allow for more local input.